The battle lines for fourth-generation (4G) wireless services became clearer this week as the GSM Association, as expected, came out in favor of the Long-Term Evolution (LTE) standard and as WiMax appeared stalemated in the U.S. in the wake of the collapse of the WiMax partnership between Sprint Nextel and Clearwire.
In addition to LTE and WiMax, the third major proposed standard -- Qualcomm-backed Ultra Mobile Broadband (UMB) -- remains in the 4G running as mobile device players shift alliances and jockey for position in the coming race to boost wireless speeds.
Speaking at the GSM Association's Mobile Asia Congress in Macau, GSMA CEO Rob Conway announced that the association had voted to back LTE. The action was expected, as many service and equipment providers already have been targeting their research and development toward implementing LTE on globally dominant GSM networks.
Alcatel-Lucent and LG Electronics jumped into the LTE arena Thursday by announcing they have together successfully tested the technology, which is expected to enable downlink/uplink peak data rates above 100 Mbps/50 Mbps. In tests carried out by Bell Labs researchers in Alcatel-Lucent's Stuttgart facilities, Alcatel-Lucent's LTE and LG's mobile device prototypes were used.
The companies predicted commercially available LTE products and services will be ready by 2009.
Also at the Macau show, Qualcomm's Jeffrey Belk, senior VP of strategy and market development, hailed the growth of HSPA (high-speed packet access) protocols, which, he said, are being used in 129 networks in 64 countries. He also raised questions about WiMax "in the early stages of commercial deployment and whose 'real world' capabilities have rarely been announced or publicly disclosed."
Qualcomm could lose an important customer someday in the form of Verizon Wireless, whose executives have been reported to favor LTE for future deployments. Qualcomm is targeting efforts with 4G potential: it is a major partner in Google's Android platform.
Conway also called on the International Telecommunication Union to make certain that there is enough spectrum available for mobile broadband.